Bentley Motors Limited is a British manufacturer and marketer of luxury cars and SUVs, and a subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group since 1998. Headquartered in Crewe, England, the company was founded as Bentley Motors Limited by W. O. Bentley in 1919 in Cricklewood, North London, and became widely known for winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930.
Before World War I, Walter Owen Bentley and his brother, Horace Millner Bentley, sold French DFP cars in Cricklewood, North London, but W.O, as Walter was known, always wanted to design and build his own cars. At the DFP factory, in 1913, he noticed an aluminium paperweight and thought that aluminium might be a suitable replacement for cast iron to fabricate lighter pistons. The first Bentley aluminium pistons were fitted to Sopwith Camel aero engines during the First World War. W.O. registered Bentley Motors Ltd. in August 1919, and in October he exhibited a car chassis, with a dummy engine, at the London Motor Show. Ex–Royal Flying Corps officer Clive Gallop designed an innovative four-valves-per-cylinder engine for the chassis. By December the engine was built and running. Delivery of the first cars was scheduled for June 1920, but development took longer than estimated so the date was extended to September 1921. The durability of the first Bentley cars earned widespread acclaim, and they competed in hill climbs and raced at Brooklands. Bentley's first major event was the 1922 Indianapolis 500, a race dominated by specialized cars with Duesenberg racing chassis. They entered a modified road car driven by works driver Douglas Hawkes, accompanied by riding mechanic H. S. "Bertie" Browning. Hawkes completed the full 500 miles and finished 13th with an average speed of 74.95 miles per hour after starting in 19th position. The team was then rushed back to England to compete in the 1922 RAC Tourist Trophy.
In an ironic reference to his heavyweight boxer's stature, Captain Woolf Barnato was nicknamed "Babe". In 1925, he acquired his first Bentley, a 3-litre. With this car, he won numerous Brooklands races. Just a year later, he acquired the Bentley business itself. The Bentley enterprise was always underfunded, but inspired by the 1924 Le Mans win by John Duff and Frank Clement, Barnato agreed to finance Bentley's business. Barnato had incorporated Baromans Ltd in 1922, which existed as his finance and investment vehicle. Via Baromans, Barnato initially invested in excess of £100,000, saving the business and its workforce. A financial reorganisation of the original Bentley company was carried out and all existing creditors paid off for £75,000. Existing shares were devalued from £1 each to just 1 shilling, or 5% of their original value. Barnato held 149,500 of the new shares giving him control of the company and he became chairman. Barnato injected further cash into the business: £35,000 secured by debenture in July 1927; £40,000 in 1928; £25,000 in 1929. With renewed financial input, W. O. Bentley was able to design another generation of cars.
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the resulting Great Depression throttled the demand for Bentley's expensive motor cars. In July 1931 two mortgage payments were due which neither the company nor Barnato, the guarantor, were able to meet. On 10 July 1931 a receiver was appointed. Napier offered to buy Bentley with the purchase to be final in November 1931. Instead, British Central Equitable Trust made a winning sealed bid of £125,000. British Central Equitable Trust later proved to be a front for Rolls-Royce Limited. Not even Bentley himself knew the identity of the purchaser until the deal was completed.
Rolls-Royce took over the assets of Bentley Motors (1919) Ltd and formed a subsidiary, Bentley Motors (1931) Ltd. Rolls-Royce had acquired the Bentley showrooms in Cork Street, the service station at Kingsbury, the complex at Cricklewood and the services of Bentley himself. This last was disputed by Napier in court without success. Bentley had neglected to register their trademark so Rolls-Royce immediately did so. They also sold the Cricklewood factory in 1932. Production stopped for two years, before resuming at the Rolls-Royce works in Derby. Unhappy with his role at Rolls-Royce, when his contract expired at the end of April 1935 W. O. Bentley left to join Lagonda.
The Bentley S1 (originally simply "Bentley S") was a luxury car produced by Bentley Motors Limited from 1955 until 1959. The S1 was derived from Rolls-Royce's complete redesign of its standard production car after World War II, the Silver Cloud. Each was its maker's last standard production car with an independent chassis. The S-series Bentley was given the Rolls-Royce - Bentley L Series V8 engine in late 1959 and named the S2. Twin headlamps and a facelift to the front arrived in late 1962, resulting in the S3. In late 1965 the S3 was replaced by the new unitary construction Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow-derived T series. A high-performance version S Continental (chassis only) was introduced six months after the introduction of the S1. Lighter weight fixed head and drophead coupé bodies were provided to special order for a premium of about 50% by H. J. Mulliner & Co., Park Ward, James Young and Freestone & Webb. A pre-production 2-seater fixed-head coupé on the new chassis was designed and built for the Bentley factory by Pininfarina.
This exceptional example is largely if not completely original cosmetically, having been well cared for and treated properly its entire life. The car has a known history from new, and is currently in the care of its 4th owner, who has had the car for many years. The car runs and drives flawlessly. It starts right up, runs smoothly, and does not smoke or stutter- the engine had major work including a Valve job and new Piston Rings under previous ownership. Having covered slightly over 100,000 miles since new the car is just the thing for Vintage Touring-and will be a certain star of the Preservation Classes so popular in today's Major Concours d"Elegance.
The flowing lines of the body are somewhat legendary, these Continental Coupes are among the most sought after Post War Bentley's. This body style was produced on both the R Type and S Type Chassis, with far fewer S Types Produced. With very few built new and very high desirability these rarely come to market, making this a rare opportunity to acquire one.
This car has an undeniable honesty that is palpable when you approach the car. As you enter the driver's compartment the smell of vintage leather and woodwork surrounds you. The seats are firm and comfortable, the controls are quick and true, the gauges spring to life and and the car performs as a trusted companion should.
Originality has become the hallmark many collectors look for when acquiring important cars. All too often the original features of a car have been erased by subsequent restorations. There are many catagories of Originality these days ranging from dusty barn finds to what I call Fine Original Cars such as this one. These cars are extremely hard to find- cars that have been well cared for their entire lives that truly represent what their designers and builders intended.
These cars are truly Special cars that serve as benchmarks for the restoration and preservation of other examples. This is a very special car.